Stimulus impacts still unknown

Published 6:08 pm Monday, April 6, 2009

Local superintendents have little doubt their portions of the federal stimulus money will make a positive impact. What they don’t know is how much.

After a regional education meeting last Friday, superintendents said they have a more clear idea of how much stimulus will be allotted and how they will be able to use it.

But until a state education budget is passed, how much relief the funds will provide still remains to be seen.

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“The big piece of the puzzle that’s missing is the state budget, and we can’t answer the question about how we would apply those dollars completely until we see what the state budget is going to look like,” said Pike County Schools Superintendent Mark Bazzell.

Troy City Schools Superintendent Linda Felton-Smith said the major concern locally is how many teacher positions the school system will be funded at the state level and if they will be able to use stimulus money to compensate for losses.

“Until that budget goes before the legislature, we don’t know how that will impact us,” Felton-Smith said.

Though none of the numbers are final yet, both school systems have received preliminary stimulus figures.

Bazzell said Pike County Schools are looking at some $2.2 million through the next two years, while Felton-Smith said Troy is looking at around $1.6 million.

But, even these excess monies can’t be used in any particular way.

A certain number of funds will be split between programs like those for students who receive free and reduced lunches, special education programs and technology.

Felton-Smith said the monies expected from the stimulus could help lower the number of teacher positions the school was expected to lose.

“Earlier we were talking about 15 teacher units (lost),” Felton-Smith said. “Based on preliminary information they gave us, we’re talking about eight units less than we will have last year.”

Bazzell said the money will likely not help in the remainder of this budget year, but the next two years could see the relief.

“I’m not sure there’s a lot we can do to mitigate the losses this year for proration,” Bazzell said. “We’re counting on rainy day funds to do that, but I doubt there’s going to be any way we can use the stimulus money to mitigate the losses this year.”

Both superintendents said they will begin looking at how those monies might could ease budgets as they prepare for next year, but without state figures, those numbers won’t be concrete.

“The task before us now is looking at how we can actually use these funds, and it is our hope we’ll be able to plug these funds into the places where we don’t have as much money,” Felton-Smith said.